It has been seven years since the Democratic members of Congress, ridden herd by their majority leader, Nancy Pelosi, passed the Affordable Care Act, inaccurately nicknamed ObamaCare.  During those years, four things happened: President Obama and his party insisted that the law was proving itself a success, Obama Care developed an increasing number of serious administrative and financial difficulties, the Republican Party vowed to repeal it as their first priority when they returned to power (a vow the nominally Republican nominee for the presidency in 2016 renewed in his own right), and the new national healthcare system quietly and progressively rooted itself in American society, in the American political system, in the American medical system, and—so the polls indicate—the American psyche, without the Republicans paying heed to what was happening under their noses.

The GOP is absolutely justified in depicting ObamaCare as dysfunctional and predicting that sooner or later its structured contradictions will bring on its collapse.  But it has wholly ignored the extent to which a vast program of this kind entrenches itself in seven years, while being blind to the unpleasant fact that, once a democratic government has bestowed a set of benefits on the public, it cannot take those benefits away without courting political disaster.  National polls before the scheduled congressional vote on the American Health Care Act that was to replace the ACA reported that 17 percent of the public favored the bill that was subsequently scuttled by the Freedom Caucus and abandoned by President Trump.  Both the Republican Congress and the White House bear the blame for failing to comprehend that 2017 is not 2010, circumstances having changed greatly in the intervening years.

But the failure in March to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare is hardly the political disaster brought on by the President’s alleged political “incompetence” that Democrats made it out to be.  In certain ways, it is, indeed, a triumph for Trump, who proved himself, against all liberal expectations, to have been a conscientious negotiator always ready and willing to meet with the other side, and in defeat a gracious loser who kept his temper, held his tongue, and went on to the next business at hand.  Most important to note here is that the entire affair was entirely predictable from Inauguration Day.  Trump won the presidency by taking on the Republican establishment, and his victory did not remove that establishment, nor did any sensible political observer imagine that it would.  The battle between Trumpism and Republicanism is not ended; it has simply moved from the hustings to the seat of government.  As Steve Bannon warned recently, those who supposed the people who stole this country would give it back to its rightful owners without putting up the fight of their lives (and ours) were gravely mistaken.  In running for the presidency Donald Trump set himself—and his followers—a titanic challenge, win or lose, and in the first three months of his presidency he has performed as well as could have been expected with his most public initiatives in the face of unprecedented opposition, from the legal establishment especially.  Meanwhile, as percipient liberals recognize, with a series of orders to various federal departments and agencies he is off to a strong start in reversing or nullifying the policies of his liberal predecessors.

Finally, Democrats and liberals generally have rejoiced in what they depict as the political damage done the GOP by the “failure” of its healthcare initiative.  It seems impossible to imagine that they are doing anything other than putting up a good front themselves and the best possible face on the matter itself, since, had the AHCA actually been passed by the House and—even after substantial adjustments—by the Senate, the result almost certainly would have been a substantial loss in both houses in 2018, and total disaster perhaps in the presidential election of 2020.  In short, the Republicans, by embarrassing themselves in the short run, save themselves in the long run.  Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act can fall gradually—and painfully for all involved, which is everyone but employees of the federal government, who were made exempt from it—to rack and ruin, while wiser and unhurried heads come up with a better alternative.